Today, a New York District judge issued a preliminary injection against the new “public charge” rules, preventing it from coming into effect on October 15. The new rules changed the definition of what immigration officers should consider when determining whether a green card applicant is likely to become a public charge. The rule defines the term “public charge” to mean an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months). The rule further defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs. To find out more about the changes, please click here.

Today, Judge Daniels faulted the government for not adequately explaining why it was changing the definition of a “public charge” or why the change was needed. “The Rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification,” he wrote in his ruling. “It is repugnant to the American dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upwards mobility.”

This decision will most likely be challenged at a higher court. However, until further notice, applicants for adjustment of status will not be subject to the higher public charge standards of the regulation, including the requirement to provide detailed documentation of their personal financial circumstances. It also means that nonimmigrants will not be subject to questions about use of public benefits when applying for a change of status or an extension of stay. However, as this rule does not apply to the State Department’s public charge regulations, only the Department of State’s, overseas applicants should still expect additional scrutiny at U.S. Consulates.

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